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Health Policy. 2015 Jul;119(7):941-53. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2015.04.009. Epub 2015 Apr 25.

Health, economic crisis, and austerity: A comparison of Greece, Finland and Iceland.

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Department of History and Political Science, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, United States. Electronic address:
Mathematica Policy Research and Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan,, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Reports have attributed a public health tragedy in Greece to the Great Recession and the subsequent application of austerity programs. It is also claimed that the comparison of Greece with Iceland and Finland-where austerity policies were not applied-reveals the harmful effect of austerity on health and that by protecting spending in health and social budgets, governments can offset the harmful effects of economic crises on health. We use data on life expectancy, mortality rates, incidence of infectious diseases, rates of vaccination, self-reported health and other measures to examine the evolution of population health and health services performance in Greece, Finland and Iceland since 1990-2011 or 2012-the most recent years for which data are available. We find that in the three countries most indicators of population health continued improving after the Great Recession started. In terms of population health and performance of the health care system, in the period after 2007 for which data are available, Greece did as good as Iceland and Finland. The evidence does not support the claim that there is a health crisis in Greece. On the basis of the extant evidence, claims of a public health tragedy in Greece seem overly exaggerated.


Finland; Greece; Health service performance; Iceland; Population health

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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